Several weeks ago, the Mississippi Business Journal ran an op-ed piece by Nancy Anderson which was critical of how the financial problems at Mississippi College have been handled. This column has generated quite a stir. We have received several emotional responses from readers. Some have agreed with the column. A few have condemned it. Nancy. Us.
Over the last few years, we have made a concerted effort to “open up” our perspective section by featuring a variety of people with a variety of experiences and a variety of opinions. We want as many points of view in our paper as possible. Our goal? We want to promote discussion, spark dialogue and get people thinking about business, as well as other issues which are impacting economic development, quality of life and education in Mississippi.
Sometimes my view may differ from that expressed by a column writer. On those occasions, assuming that the piece in question is at least within the realm of acceptability, I try to stay mindful that the goal is broadening our editorial scope. To do otherwise means that MBJ becomes a proponent of my views exclusively.
As fond as I am of my opinions, I believe that readers benefit from exposure to varying points of view.
Getting down to the heart
A newspaper prospers or fails based on the single factor of credibility. Either the readers believe that the paper is expending maximum effort to be objective in its reporting or they don’t. The opinion page is a slightly different animal. This is where the newspaper expresses its views and offers others the opportunity to express their own.
Ideally, over time, a balance is struck between differing points of view and readers are provided sufficient information to formulate their own opinion. When that happens, we have accomplished the goal of stimulating interest and discussion of significant business and economic issues.
With Nancy’s column on Mississippi College’s financial woes, I readily admit that it initially struck me in a negative way. I am an MC graduate, as is our editor, and have been a minor, but fairly consistent, financial supporter of the college over the past 30 years. On the other hand, I have been frustrated by the lack of information as to what is going on there. I have thoroughly read every article that I have seen on the situation and confess that I have no idea what has caused, or is continuing to cause, the problem. I have waited patiently for an explanation and, to date, none has been forthcoming.
My suggestion to college president Dr. Howell Todd is to hold a press conference and explain the situation. Really explain it. No spin. No half-answers. Let the media, the public, faculty, staff, students and supporters ask questions. Concealing the source and nature of the problem only breeds speculation and innuendo. Deal with the problem(s) openly, and the whole issue becomes old news, the speculation stops and the repair work can begin.
While I admit that I know nothing about running a college and would not purport otherwise, I do know something about the advisability of airing dirty laundry as a tool of quelling unfounded accusations, if that is what it is, and getting on with the business of educating the students. Tough medicine, but a proven cure. I love and support Mississippi College and am confident that it will weather this storm and continue to uphold its outstanding record as an excellent educational institution.
Now, back to Nancy’s column. My dedication to openness to differing viewpoints in the op-ed section, my confidence in Nancy as a professional and knowing that she lives in Clinton and is therefore closer to the situation than I, led to my decision to overrule my personal feelings toward criticizing “my college.” I stand by that decision.
For the record, we have invited Dr. Todd and other interested parties to respond to the column and committed that we would print their side.
Thus far, no takers.
On a personal note
I deeply appreciate all of the concern expressed by friends and supporters during my recent “backache.” Actually, I have a degenerating vertebrae which has given me problems in the past and is sure to recur in the future. It is comforting to be missed and for so many to inquire as to my well-being. I am back on the job though I still walk funny.
Thought for the Moment
Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
— Luke 9:62
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is email@example.com.